Ethics

Additional Information

TEACHING ETHICS THROUGHOUT THE CURRICULUM

Topic: Education, Teaching and Training

For many sociologists, teaching continues to stand at the center of their role. There is not doubt that sociologists have professional responsibilities in their role as teachers. While issues like competence and confidentiality have their parallels in teaching, many of these concepts has been developed to address ethical issues in research. However, unlike research, relatively little attention has been paid to ethics of teaching and the teaching role and that attention has been rather recent (Cahn 1986; AAUP 1987). For example, while many institutions, professional associations (including the American Association of University Professors) have addressed teaching in their codes of ethics, only in 1996, did a group of college and university teachers propose a general set of ethical standards for the teaching role. As they note, the intent of ethical principles is neither to contradict academic freedom nor interfere with personal liberties; rather, it focuses on how both can be exercised in a responsible manner (see Murray et al., 1996). Just as sociologists have an obligation to the profession and those participating in the researcher (whether collaborators or respondents) regarding the conduct of research, so too do they have responsibilities to their colleagues, their students and their institutions regarding their teaching.

While teaching can be narrowly defined as concerns that arise in the classroom, issues surrounding education, teaching and training encompass a wide range of activities of sociologists outside the classroom including mentoring, advising, administration and even the impact of collegial relationships on the teaching mission. As noted above, ethics in teaching has been confused with a number of other issues -- academic freedom, personal choice and good practice. On the former, some have confused academic freedom, the protection to teach the "truth" without fear of political, economic or religious recrimination, with claims that they have a right to teach only particular courses, to teach in any way they want, to use whatever practices they want and to establish whatever kind of personal relationships with student that they deem appropriate. However, just like research, sociologists in their role as teachers have obligations to protect those whom they teach from inappropriate behavior. The idea that "what goes on in my classroom is my business" is neither a suitable use of the protection of academic freedom nor is it supported under this Code of Ethics. Similarly, recent debates about the proper way to teach have caused many in colleges and universities to ask if it is ethical to continue to teach in "old fashioned" ways when research and assessment suggests they are ineffective. Here, the Code does not and cannot dictate which techniques or methods should be used, that is outside of its scope and lies in debates about "best practices." Finally, one of the most recent debates has asked about our obligations to train the next generation of teachers both in method and ethical practices. Under the mentor model, both ideas of how to teach and what constituted responsible behavior in the teaching role were implicit. Some have argued that this is inappropriate and does not parallel our concerns about ethical practices in research (see, for example, Pescosolido 1991). 

Many of the cases illustrate how the present code deals with these issues and are designed to address the line between these current debates and the ethical obligations of sociologists in teaching. They attempt to show how ethical concerns in teaching may play out in the classroom and how they extend beyond it. 

Case 89. False or Deceptive Statements

Case 90. Designing A Comprehensive Program

Case 91. Filling Last Minute Teaching Gaps

Case 92. Equality in Training Opportunities

Case 93. Change in the Classroom

Case 94. Intellectual Animosities and Teaching

Case 95. Citation of Sources and Use of Materials in Teaching

Case 96. Teaching, Research and Data Collection